Monday, July 6, 2009

Alan Moore for grownups (not suitable for children or half-educated comics fans)

Leftist and Marxist critics of culture understand historical amnesia, subject to the logic of '80s capitalism, to be the condition of postmodernity. Fredric Jameson diagnoses postmodern culture as an expression of the logic of late capitalism ("Postmodernism and Consumer Society" 125). While culture within postmodernity tends to reinforce this historical amnesia, Jameson leaves open the question of whether art can resist the logic of capitalism. Moore's work is an explicit condemnation of the amnesia of consumer society, most striking because it is exercised within a cultural form notorious for its ideological co-operation with conservative, capitalist logic, namely the mainstream comic book itself. The exploration of the possibility of an honest utopia in Marvelman serves as an explicit challenge to the historical amnesia dominating the West, due simply to the oddity of such a narrative turn within the general cynicism of the postmodern moment. More recently, Jameson points out that to have an historical sense, to be able to imagine change and progress, the arrival of the new, implies a sense of the utopian, if not necessarily a concrete vision of utopia ("The Politics of Utopia" 36). As Moore suggests in his work, the loss of a sense of the utopian, of the imaginative, and of the historical, consequently threatens the dissolution of the existence of humanity altogether. Moore's critical gaze in the 1980s was focussed on the economic, social and political context of Western society, and also on the formal context of the comic book industry. If, on the one hand, he uses his work to re-enchant social reality with historical meaning and hopeful progressivism, he also sees himself as re-enchanting the formal universe of comic books with a liberating, imaginative spirit, trying to keep Pictopia alive, while imagining the possibilities for utopian thinking as well. Ironically, while Moore has had an enormous influence on the comic book industry, it has been largely as fuel for the bulldozers mowing away Pictopia, for the perpetuation of historical amnesia. This is due to the negative effect of his most famous, frequently read work, Watchmen (1986-87), drawn by Dave Gibbons, a revisionist superhero narrative which, due to its incredible success, influenced the cynical turn in late '80s and early '90s comics, but in a manner Moore himself did not intend. Watchmen, an unsurpassed revisionist superhero narrative, was a further progression in Moore's historiographic vision, but it was received by the comics industry as an invitation to abandon the past and transform superheroes into violent, amoral killers as a means of making comics more "realistic" and appealing to new readers.

Source: here.